FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general says the Republican governor’s plan to cut state spending by more than 17 percent would be illegal, prompting a rebuke from Gov. Matt Bevin in the latest chapter of the long-running feud between the two politicians.
Andy Beshear told reporters Tuesday that Bevin’s plan would break the law because it would use budget cuts to replenish the state’s savings account.
State economists have estimated Kentucky will have a $200 million shortfall when the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2018. But Bevin’s plan, announced Friday , would cut spending by $350 million to cover the estimated shortfall and put $150 million into the state’s savings account.
Beshear cited state law that says spending cuts cannot be more than a projected shortfall.
“I’m not questioning his intentions. I don’t disagree it’s nice to have money sitting in an account to help the bond rating,” Beshear said in a news conference at the state Capitol. “I’m just applying the law as it was passed by the General Assembly. In the end the law is the law and it is my job to enforce it.”
Beshear’s comments prompted a spirited response from Bevin, who told WHAS radio that Beshear was “never a good attorney” and said he “would defy anybody to show me he had the true qualifications to do this job.”
“He’s just literally in over his head. He doesn’t understand what running state government looks like,” Bevin said. “It would be ridiculously inappropriate of us as a state to have not one cent in reserve.”
Beshear has challenged Bevin’s spending decisions in the past. Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled Bevin broke the law when he ordered spending cuts at public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature and ordered him to give the money back. It was the first of four lawsuits Beshear has filed against Bevin’s use of executive authority. Three lawsuits are still pending.
Tuesday, Bevin told WHAS radio that he doesn’t care what Beshear says because “this is the same attorney general who has an issue with pretty much everything we do.”
Beshear is a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2019 when Bevin could run for re-election. He began Tuesday’s news conference by saying he was “not here to attack anyone or to continue any perceived feud.” But he noted the budget cuts would have severe impacts, noting state prosecutors were facing a nearly $16 million cut.
“We have county attorneys that only have one part-time receptionist. When they go to court, the office closes,” he said.
Asked Tuesday if he plans to sue Bevin if he tries to implement his spending plan, Beshear said “surely we won’t have to.”
“After seeing this law, surely the budget director and the governor will say we are bound by the explicit mandate of the General Assembly,” Beshear said.